York County school textbooks are out of date, according to division records

tbell@dailypress.com

YORK — America has yet to elect a black president, according to most York County School Division government and history textbooks.

That's because the division is using 13-year-old textbooks to teach K-5 history. The 7th and 8th grade history textbooks and the textbooks used in high school world history, United States history and government are all 10 years old.

Most of the division's textbooks have been in use for half a decade or more, according to records obtained by the Daily Press through a Freedom of Information Act request. The records track the division's textbook adoptions, broken down by subject for elementary school, middle school and high school.

The only books that have been replaced in the last three fiscal years are elementary school science and English textbooks, and high school math analysis, Advanced Placement (AP) United States history, AP European history, AP environmental science, AP biology and world language. The more than 30 other subjects remaining on the list all have textbooks that are at least six years old.

Included in the documents provided to the Daily Press was an email exchange between a high school teacher and one of the division's instructional specialists.

"Do you happen to know when the county would get us new textbooks?" Erik Tremblay, a teacher at York River Academy, wrote in 2014. "The government ones are especially getting outdated, most notably with campaign finance."

"I certainly wish it were soon," Tivika Stephenson replied. She offered to look into instructional resources to fill in the information gap.

Tremblay's concern about campaign finance information is well-founded. Any textbook published before 2010 wouldn't include Citizens United v. SEC, the United States Supreme Court ruling that drastically changed the rules on campaign donations.

The division last replaced its government textbooks in 2006 and its AP government textbooks in 2007. At that point in time, America had yet to elect a black president, Osama bin Laden was still alive and the Supreme Court had yet to rule parts of the Voting Rights act of 1965 unconstitutional in the Shelby County v. Holder decision.

"The division's textbook budget, coupled with end of year funds (as available), currently places textbook adoption on a 13-year schedule," said Katherine Goff, the division's coordinator of community and public relations. "As such, determining which textbooks to adopt and when is based on a number of factors. The age of the textbook and condition of the book, revisions to the state standards of learning and curriculum framework, and/or revisions to College Board AP curriculum are all considered when prioritizing needs."

The K-5 history textbooks and the high school world history, US history, government, AP psychology and sociology textbooks are scheduled to be replaced in 2017, Goff said. She added that replacing those books would cost an estimated $800,000.

That's significantly more than the $323,620 the division budgeted for textbook replacement in 2015 or the $383,620 it budgeted for 2016. It's about 30 percent more than the $558,756 the division budgeted for textbooks in 2017.

York County isn't the only school division with old textbooks. The Great Recession forced school divisions throughout the state to reduce spending, including on textbooks.

Diana Gulotta, executive director of public relations and marketing for Hampton City Schools, said social studies textbooks are on a 12-year cycle, "but the division creates its own student resources in many cases."

"The oldest book is dated 2004 in grades 4 and 5, but it does not serve as the primary source of information," Gulotta added.

Nancy Welch, superintendent of schools in Mathews County, said Mathews fell behind in textbook replacement when "the bottom dropped out of the economy" around 2008. The oldest book in that division has a copyright date of 2002. She said teachers find ways to get information across to their students.

"Today's teachers don't use textbooks as the driving force for learning," Welch said. She said they find what works and use it, whether it be printed supplements, textbooks or a combination of both.

Frances Hubbard and Jane Hammond contributed to this report. Bell can be reached by phone at 757-746-6333.

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